Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oregon Wave Project Report

We have not covered wave power for a while and the reason is pretty apparent when you read this recent item.  A giant wind turbine in the same location can produce twice the power of the planned $60 million investment and it will not sink.  In the open seas, the intermittent aspect of the winds is better described as intermittently missing.  We have already learned to live with that.


Wave power is in the early engineering development stage.  It can surely be improved..  However, gigantism is not likely a benefit as in wind power.  The buoys have to generate power over a wide range of wave generated power strokes.  There will likely be modalities in which they will perform poorly.  So wind is not the only power source that suffers from intermittent drops in production.


Exposure to the sea itself is hardly minor.  The devices will have a life span comparable to an ordinary ship whereas a wind turbine is exposed only in its static foundation structure.  We may eventually go for floating structures but with so much available shallow coast it is rather pointless.


The energy itself is quite real but the ability to tap it is a very expensive exercise in marine engineering.


Oregon Wave Power Project Advances

TechnologiesOcean Power Technologies has contracted with Oregon Iron Works to start building what it hopes will become a 10-buoy test system in the waters off Reedsport, Ore.
Oregon is moving ahead with plans for the nation’s first commercial wave energy station.
On Friday morning, New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologiesannounced that it has contracted with Oregon Iron Works to start building what it hoped will become a 10-buoy test system in the waters off Reedsport, Ore.
“We’re thrilled to be under way,” said Mark Draper, Ocean Power’s chief executive, in a telephone interview before the announcement. “We hope this is just the beginning of a new phase in capturing a major source of renewable energy.”
Mr. Draper said that the first buoy was expected to deploy in a year. Two years after that, nine more buoys should go into the water. The fully deployed, $60 million system was expected to have a capacity of 1.5 megawatts — about half that of a single giant wind turbine (though the waves should be able to provide plenty of power around the clock, unlike the intermittent wind). Mr. Draper said his company expected to develop a much larger wave farm nearby that could have as many as 200 buoys.
The project will sit 2.5 miles offshore and connect to a Bonneville Power Administration substation. The project was being paid for with a combination of funds from Ocean Power, as well as federal dollars, Oregon tax breaks and money from the electric company, PNGC Power, which has agreed to purchase the power for its customers in Douglass County, Ore. Mr. Draper said he hoped to sell the power at 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, which, he said, was comparable to other renewables except for wind (which is cheaper).
However, getting working wave-power projects into the water is not easy. A wave-power device from another company, Finavera, sank off the Oregon coast two years ago. In California, state regulators last rejected a wave power project (also Finavera’s), saying that the technology was “precommercial” and that the “contract price is not reasonable.” The wave project that is furthest along, off the coast of Portugal, ran into financial difficulties earlier this year.
In Oregon, Ocean Power could face resistance from fishermen, especially as the project grows.
Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said his group is “not particularly excited about Ocean Power Technologies’s plans. But we’re keeping an open mind.”
He added that while his members have accepted the presence of the initial buoys, they are very concerned about plans for the larger array, which “is too big a project in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr. Draper of Ocean Power said his company has worked hard to make sure the buoys will withstand powerful storms and has been negotiating with stakeholders to try to make sure no one’s livelihood was harmed.

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